While there are currently tens of millions of blogs worldwide, close to 60 million powered by WordPress alone, many bloggers are not yet monetizing their sites. If you're one of these bloggers, a good place to start is with affiliate marketing: directing readers to a product or service in exchange for a commission on the sale (or other action) when it occurs.
"If someone is looking to monetize their blog, I would make a strong case for affiliate marketing as the best avenue for doing so," says Josh Waldron, founder of creative design firm Studio JWAL LLC. "Blogs with quality content attract loyal readers. Since readers benefit from the content offered, they grow to trust the authors of that content over time. Consequently, an author's blog posts are a logical place to promote relevant products and services without compromising the integrity of the content."
These four quick steps can help you monetize your blog through affiliate marketing.
1. Choose Relevant Affiliate Programs
Affiliate ads pay per action, which means readers will need to click on the ad, then either sign up, register for something or make a purchase before you get paid for the action. The more relevant the ad is to your content, the higher the likelihood visitors will click on the ad and perform the desired action.
So, what type of affiliate program will provide the most relevant ads for your blog? If you're focused on a particular topic, you'll want to join affiliates specifically associated with your content. For example, if you have a photography site, you might apply to be an affiliate with a camera equipment dealer.
Many bloggers start with Amazon Associates, since Amazon sells millions of diverse products that are likely to be a fit for most bloggers. Amazon pays commissions of 4 to 15 percent, depending on volume and product type.
To find other targeted affiliate programs, check out popular affiliate clearinghouse sites such as Commission Junction, LinkShare and ShareASale. All three offer access to thousands of affiliate programs, but you must apply separately to each one.
While you should choose programs related to your content, you don't have to feel restricted to stick too closely to your niche, says marketing consultant Dennis Duty. Think about what other types of products your audience might be interested in.
"Perhaps your Halo audience would enjoy other FPS games as well," Duty says.
2. Consider an Affiliate Aggregator Service
If your blog topics are more diverse, you might consider a program such as VigLink, which automates access to more than 30,000 affiliate programs and monetizes the links on your site for you.
For example, if a blogger is writing about a new pair of shoes she found on Zappos, instead of having to sign up with the Zappos affiliate program directly, she can work with VigLink, which will automatically append the affiliate code to the link and pay her earned commissions. While VigLink typically keeps 25 percent for this service, the company claims that because of its size, it often negotiates higher commissions that more than cover its share, according to Oliver Deighton, VigLink's vice president of marketing.
In addition to automatically monetizing existing links, VigLink can also optionally insert new, ordinary links where none existed before. For example, if bloggers mention a product, brand or store, they don't have to worry about linking it themselves: VigLink will take care of that with its link insertion technology, which optimizes for both user experience and revenue.
"For most websites, link insertion lifts VigLink revenue by more than 90 percent," Deighton adds.
Deighton also notes that while any blogger can try VigLink, bloggers will find the most success if their content is geared toward commerce.
"Hobbies, fashion, tech gear, deals and savings are all topics that naturally lead to spending; religion, food, raising children are less ideal," Deighton says.
3. Create Content That Sells
Many bloggers will actually write reviews of products with affiliate marketing in mind.
"The power of a blog is that it's easy to aggregate a lot of loyal fans for niche topics. This lends itself to making recommendations and providing affiliate links to those recommendations," says Chris Conrey, a partner at digital marketing company Vuurr.com. But just throwing out links to products with no rhyme or reason will result in a quick exit by visitors, writes Lynn Truong, editor-in-chief of Wise Bread, a personal finance site.
"Think of affiliate ads as additional resources that complement your content," Truong says. "Don't put up a list of your favorite books, hoping people will click on the affiliate link and purchase the books just because you listed them. Take some time to write a detailed review, and use affiliate ads to point them in the right direction if they decide to act on your information."
4. Integrate Affiliate Links Appropriately
If you do add affiliate links to your site, make sure you maintain a balance between monetization and user experience, suggests Web designer Kevin Spence.
One way to do this is to keep the majority of your content ad-free.
"Think of five to 10 great pages that you could use to promote affiliate offers related to your niche," Spence says. "Then link to those money pages from your sidebar, footer or somewhere else that will give them a lot of visibility from the other pages on your site. Keep the rest of your site ad-free. The goal is not to monetize every page, but for every page to be a potential gateway to monetization."
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